Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trump World

America's first post-truth president will be sworn in as the Nation's 45th chief executive at noon eastern time on January 20.  Just exactly what will happen after that seems so far to be unclear, including to his inner circle and supporters.  Trump marches to his own tune. One thing for sure, though, is that the man who has pledged to "Make America Great Again" will be making the Trump brand even greater.

While Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes in November's election, he did win the votes necessary to secure the electoral delegates needed to become president.  He was propelled by a large group of Americans who are fed up with Washington politics because for decades they have been left behind. They had listened and believed all the past promises from red and blue politicians, only to be pushed back into the dark background when the contest was completed.   They were taken for granted again and again.

Many Trump voters came from aggrieved members of the working class who have seen technology and globalization rip their livelihood and self-respect from their soul.  Politicians who busily courted special interests to perpetuate their positions in government regularly ignored their plaintive cries.  For some, Bernie Sanders seemed to be an authentic alternative to the status quo.  But when he was pushed aside by the Democratic political establishment, many of his supporters found Trump appealing.

To many Americans Washington needed a wake up call.  Washington needed to be shaken up.  It was time for a new reality, even if it was a post-truth reality.  The aggrieved turned to a loud, boisterous, politically incorrect, mendacious, prevaricating entertainer-real estate mogul.  Trump appealed to their emotions rather than their minds.  They heard what they wanted to hear, and Trump was their champion.  

A recent PPP national poll found that 67% of Trump voters believe unemployment increased during the Obama presidency, when in fact it sharply declined.  Only 41% of Trump voters say the stock market went up during the Obama administration, meaning most don't know that the market has almost tripled over the past eight years.  And 60% of Trump voters believe Hillary Clinton received millions illegal votes, a lie that Trump has repeated several times since the election.

But does the truth really matter to these aggrieved voters?  Many don't believe that Trump will build a huge wall from one end of the Mexican-U.S. border to the other.  Many don't believe that Mexico will pay for the wall.   They certainly don't believe that Trump will deport all 11 million people who are living in this country illegally.  They certainly don't believe he will ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.  They certainly don't believe Trump saw thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey when New York's World Trade Center was attacked.  They know it was a  lie. They certainly don't believe that Trump will bring back millions of manufacturing jobs as he has promised.  

What do they believe?  They believe Trump will "drain the swamp" of politicians and bring an end to business as usual.  They believe Trump has their backs, that he hears their voices, that he will make their lives better.   They have given the president-elect a pass on releasing his federal tax returns. They have given him a pass on eliminating his many conflicts of interest.  They don't care if he produces a reality television show while in office.  They don't care that he attacks the press, evades serious questions, and regularly communicates via Twitter at all hours of the night.

Some have noted that Trump has appointed wealthy bankers, experienced politicians and retired generals to serve in his administration.  While this seems to contradict his promise to drain the swamp, so far they are giving him the benefit of a doubt.  The fact that Trump and some of his appointees are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a ruthless and corrupt leader who views America as the enemy, seems not to have resonated with the president elect's supporters.  So much for Ronald Reagan's evil empire!   

Soon Trump will be confronted with the full weight of the responsibilities that fall upon the shoulders of America's president. He will actually have to make decisions.  Will he gradually replace the existing Medicare program, as the Republican platform proposes, with a defined contribution program where seniors will be provided a fixed amount of money to purchase private health insurance of their own?  Will he repeal Obamacare and leave millions of Americans without healthcare?   Will he push to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion?  Will he go ahead with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline?  He said he would make a decision soon after taking office.

How will President-elect Trump deal with President Putin?  Will he move to ease sanctions on Russia for its occupation of Crimea? Will he impose import tariffs on Chinese products, even if it means higher prices in the U.S., and leads to the cancellation of contracts for Boeing aircraft and other U.S. products?  Will he send U.S. troops into Syria?  Will he implement his secret plan to eliminate ISIS?

According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, a majority of Americans are either uncertain or pessimistic about his presidency. The country that he has vowed to unify remains deeply divided.  For sure, Trump's presidential campaign was unconventional, but he made many enemies, including within the Republican Party. So Trump make think all the world's a stage, and that he can bully and bluster his way through his daily challenges.  However, he will soon find out that the presidency is not just a television show.   

Thomas Jefferson once said, "No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it."  Let's hope so, because America’s future is at stake, and all the world will be watching. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump and Putin

President elect Donald Trump is a loggerheads with the U.S. intelligence community just weeks before he is to be sworn into office. The Washington Post reported that the C.I.A. had determined that Russia had interfered with last month’s presidential election in an effort to undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. The Russians broke into Democratic National Committee computer networks and released embarrassing documents and emails in the weeks prior to the election. The New York Times reported the Russians had also hacked Republican National Committee computers but did not release any of those documents.

The Post quoted a senior U.S. official as saying, “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help get Trump elected.” The Trump transition team responded with a snarky statement, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” In an interview released Wednesday, Trump told Timemagazine, “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe (Russia) interfered.” But President Obama has now ordered a full review “of what happened during the 2016 election process” to be completed before he leaves office.

While there is no evidence yet that the Russians or President Vladimir Putin did anything that would alter the outcome of the election, Trump supporters are concerned that these reports may be an effort to delegitimize his presidency. Trump praised Putin as a strong leader during the presidential campaign. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter Saturday, “I’m not challenging the outcome of the election, but very concerned about Russian interference/actions at home & throughout the world.”

President Putin has been waging a multi-front campaign for years to destabilize Western democracies and undermine NATO. Trump was critical of NATO during his campaign. Russia has endured tough sanctions as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions have added to the severe economic problems the country is facing. While Russia has been a partner of the U.S. in the Iranian nuclear deal, it has been at odds with the West over its military support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which has only intensified that country’s civil war and compounded the human tragedy currently taking place.

Putin is a master manipulator, and he may be betting that businessman Donald Trump would be easier to deal with on several fronts. Trump’s imminent announcement of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State nominee is an added plus for Putin. Tillerson and Putin are friends and have done business together. The ExxonMobil website claims that the company “has had a continuous business presence in Russia for more than 20 years.” No project is more important than a joint venture between Exxon and the Russian state owned company Rosneft to drill oil in the Arctic’s Kara Sea. That project had been halted due to the

sanctions, but Tillerson has said he does not believe the Russian sanctions work. This week it was announced that Russia sold a 20% stake in Rosneft for $11.7 billion based on expectations that sanctions would be eased under a Trump presidency.

Putin is a trained KGB officer and he runs his country with a ruthless hand. He has cracked down on civil society, the media, he has intensified persecution of his critics, and he has fanned anti-Western sentiment in Russia. Two weeks ago Republican Senator John McCain warned Trump against another reset with Putin. “At the very least, the price of another “reset” would be complicity in Putin and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people,” he said. “When America has been at its greatest, it is when we have stood on the side of those fighting tyranny. That is where we must stand again.”

A Russian friend of mine recently asked me if I heard the latest joke from his homeland. “President Putin has appointed Donald Trump as the head of America,” he said with a chuckle. This may be funny to Russians, but it is a scary thought to any American. President elect Trump should be treating all U.S. national security agencies with the highest respect. To attack them will only weaken and discourage their efforts at a critical time. Further, he must treat Putin as a serious threat to this nation. The future of freedom and democracy is at stake.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Verizon Incompetence

Verizon has awful customer service.  After more than a month, my long telephonic nightmare may be close to being solved!

Problems with Verizon not come as a surprise to many Verizon customers, but for 25 years I have had no problems with my two residential lines.  That ended October 21, when Verizon experienced a cable failure that has left many residents on New York's Upper East Side without landline phone service.  

This past June a Verizon representative called offering me their FIOS fiber service.  He indicated that because a new neighbor was requesting it they would have to run fibers through our house.  He pointed out I could get internet, television and phone service all in one.   I said, since I was happy with my Time Warner Cable TV service and my current Verizon phone service, I did not more lines running through my house. 

Several weeks later. on Friday, October 21, both of my landlines failed, they are on copper lines that have been in place for decades.  We called in the problem, giving both phone numbers, but did not see a repairman until the following Wednesday.   The repairman sad he had a ticket for only one phone line suggesting I call the other line in separately.  After less than a half-hour the repairman left to find the box in the apartment building at the corner.  We never saw him again.  

A couple days later a second repairman showed up with a ticket for only one number.  He explained he could not work on both lines.  He disappeared next door after revealing there may have been a cable failure somewhere, and many phone lines were out.  We never saw him again.  

For the next couple weeks, repairmen occasionally came by our townhouse to fix one line or the other, but none had answers.  One day a repairman actually got one of our lines to work.  But a day later it failed.  It had been three weeks since our phone system failed, and Verizon service representatives still could not explain what was going on, but they assured me it would be repaired as soon as possible.  "We apologize for any inconvenience," I heard time and again.

I followed along with one of the repairmen to see what the local area set was like.  There's a box filled with copper wires in and apartment building which is connected to a box outside, behind a fence, with more copper wires.  The repairman explained to me that Verizon wants to replace all the copper boxes with FIOS fiber.   It finally occurred to me that Verizon was slow walking repairs on its old system to force customers to FIOS.

On November 22, one month after our phones failed, I called Verizon again in pursuit of an answer.  I spent more than 30 minutes going through their system, speaking to different service people.  I was forwarded to someone described as a "dispatcher."  (He was located in New Jersey.)  The dispatcher made several attempts to get information for me about what was going on with phones in my tony neighborhood.  

Brace yourself--the dispatcher told me my landline phone service will not be restored until mid January.  That's six more weeks!  On the other hand, they could install FIOS fiber in my house almost immediately.   What!

Here's what's wrong with Verizon:

-Verizon does not communicate well with the customer, unless it is a sales opportunity.
-They do not tell their employees what's going on, leaving them to suffer the wrath of unhappy customers.
-The company has incredibly inefficient repair processes that do not allow them any flexibility in solving problems.  Two people can be at the same site working on a related problem--and no one knows.  No central organization.
-Technicians should not be upselling Verizon FIOS when they appear for repairs.
-The automated phone system is not designed to handle some problems.
-Receiving automated phone calls from a computerized voice is a pain, and a waste of time for customers who have to navigate through the system.  
-Verizon should contact all of its customers and inform them they are moving to fiber and will have to replace their old copper systems.  They can explain that the copper wire system is failing and must be replaced.  BE TRANSPARENT!  It's the best policy.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

President Elect Trump

President Elect Donald Trump is using Twitter to reassure all Americans that good things are in store for them.  "This will prove to be a great time in the lives of ALL Americans.  We will unite and we will win, win, win," he wrote Saturday.  But it will take actions not tweets to begin to address the anxiety most Americans feel about Trump as president.

Hillary Clinton received the most votes in last Tuesday's presidential election, a higher percentage than Richard Nixon in 1968, and Bill Clinton in 1992.  But in the country where Democracy was founded, getting the most votes does not mean victory.  Trump was able to carry enough states to win the delegate count.   He was helped by a depressed voter turnout, which always helps Republicans.  Last Tuesday 57 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared to 58.6 percent in 2012, and 61.6 percent in 2008.

The depressed turnout may have been due to several key factors.  FBI director James Comey sent a letter to members of Congress in October advising them that he was looking into Emails on former Congressman Anthony Weiner's laptop that may be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.  Republicans seized on the ambiguous statement as if it was an indictment.  Then two days before the election Comey advised members of Congress that investigations found nothing after going through the additional Emails.  

This last minute reminder of Clinton's Email problems could have helped depress turnout on election day, especially considering the fact that early voting was up over 2012.  Clinton has mishandled her use of a private Email server, which Comey called reckless, and she played into perceptions that she cannot be trusted.  It is worth noting that Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani told Fox News viewers something big was going to happen that would affect the election two days before Comey's first letter to Congress.  Giuliani, a former United States Attorney from New York, later said that he never talked to anyone in the FBI about the matter.  He now is the leading candidate to be U.S. Attorney General under Trump.

Prices for Obamacare increased substantially in some key states, including Arizona, just weeks before the election.  The sticker shock eclipsed the good deeds the ACA is doing for millions of previously uninsured Americans.  Obamacare has been the target of Republicans, and Trump has promised to repeal and replace it.

Hillary Clinton is not a strong campaigner; she is no Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.  While she put together a strong campaign team and a powerful ground game, Trump leveraged free media and kept driving the campaign conversation through extensive use of Twitter.  Trump is a good entertainer and a well-known personality, while Clinton is a long time member of the political establishment.

A number of states have added stricter voter identification standards, and have reduced polling places and the hours that they would be open.  These changes discouraged the elderly, students and African Americans from voting.  Republicans had made much of voter fraud in enacting these measures, even though there were only 31 cases of in-person voting fraud out of 1 billion votes since 2000 in all elections, national and local.  

National polls before the election showed Clinton ahead in many key state races, even after the latest Comey kerfuffle.  Perhaps the Clinton campaign was too overconfident.   But many of those who were polled may have misled pollsters about their intention to support Trump.  On the other hand, most of the media failed to grasp the magnitude of Trump's support in sections of the country, especially rural.  These supporters were not fair weather fans; rather they were devoted Trump loyalists.

President-elect Trump has been focusing on policy briefings, phone conversations with world leaders, and on deciding whom he will appoint to his cabinet.  In order to win the presidency he overcame many controversial statements and actions that would have sunk any other candidate.   He insulted his opponents in the harshest terms.  He spoke and allegedly acted in a sexually offensive manner to several women, and he was even caught on videotape speaking in an inappropriate way.  He called Mexican rapists and drug dealers, he threatened to ban Muslims from entering the country,  he said women who have abortions should be punished, and he demeaned war heroes and veterans.  Throughout the campaign he displayed ignorance on many key issues, national and foreign, and he lied early and often about himself, at times denying that he had said something earlier in the same interview.   In short, he often looked like a schoolyard bully, and conducted himself foolishly.  

The news media has been bashed by Clinton supporters for not challenging Trump earlier enough in his campaign.  Trump received the equivalent of $2 billion in free airtime on cable and network news channels leading up to his election.  The media should continue to pursue Trump's income tax returns that he alleges are under audit by the IRS.  Further, new organizations should investigate how America's First Lady to be, Melania Trump, entered the United States.  She was supposed to have a press conference last summer to show proof she did not enter the U.S. illegally.  Further, the media ought to investigate the truth behind Trumps shoddy business practices and his many conflicts of interest with foreigners and governments he has borrowed money from to maintain his empire.  His generous use of the EB-5 program, where foreigners who invest in U.S. capital investments like real estate are granted U.S. visas, would be a good place to examine. 

The Electoral College will cast its vote for President-elect Trump in December, and he will be sworn into office in January.  He will then be president, but many Americans are having trouble accepting that fact.  

Trump's rocky path to success calls to mind a quote written in 1926 by H.L. Mencken.  "As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people," he wrote.  "On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The State of American Politics

Election Day will be the culmination of a long painful presidential campaign that has pitted two unpopular candidates against each other in one the most offensive races in this nation's history.   The beacon of democracy has been soiled by scurrilous rhetoric that has blemished the character and stature of the United States.   No matter the outcome, the healing process is sure to be long and difficult.

Republican Donald Trump fought like a pit bull to win his party's nomination.  He insulted all of his primary opponents, using demeaning language and derogatory terms to describe his foes.  He succeeded to play on the anger of many citizens who feel left behind, who believe the government is not functioning properly, who are frustrated with illegal immigrants, who fear a terrorist attack, who are worried their guns will be taken away, and who are fed up with foreign wars.  

Trump is a severely flawed candidate.  He has been recorded on video making offensive remarks about women, even saying he would be sexually abusive to them.  Now a dozen women have come forward to claim Trump made unwanted sexual advances to them, claims he has denied.  This follows his long history of using demeaning and slanderous insults against women.

Trump began his campaign insulting Mexicans immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, and promised to build a wall along the southern border that Mexico would pay for.  He announced a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and called for monitors to watch over mosques.  He insulted Senator John McCain, saying the former POW was not a war hero.  He insulted a disabled reporter, and has consistently attacked reporters covering his campaign as dishonest, which created an unsafe environment for journalists assigned to his events.   

Recent news reports have revealed that Trump cut corners and used shady tax provisions for decades to keep his companies afloat. Trump used bankruptcy laws to leave several contractors and their employees high and dry, as well a would-be homeowners.  Trump brags that he gives money to charities, but recent news reports have revealed he often promises and then later reneges on his promise.  Trump University is being investigated, and the biggest lesson its students learned is not to trust Trump.   Trump claims he cannot release his tax returns because he says he is being audited.  There is no proof he is being audited, but that is not a reason to withhold his returns from the American public.  He knows if he did so he would be exposed, but he has gotten away with his lack of transparency. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed Trump, and Trump has said kind words about Putin.  Since Trump has questioned the role of NATO, a vital national security organization for the U.S., of course Putin supports Trump because he wants a weakened NATO too.  Putin is doing all he can to fan the rise of Right-Wing movements throughout Europe in an effort to undermine that region's stability.   So it should be no surprise that Right-Wing factions in this country, and even the Ku Klux Klan, are supporting Trump.  

Trump has no military or foreign policy experience, yet we are at a time when the world is in tremendous transition, and American forces are engaged in several conflicts.  For decades efforts have been made to limit existing nuclear stockpiles and stop the spread of these massively destructive weapons to other countries, as well as to terrorists.  But Trump has said he would not be opposed to using these weapons, and suggested that Japan and Saudi Arabia should be allowed to have them.  His lack of understanding on this issue is scary--and may have profound consequences should he be elected.  The president doesn't need Congressional approval to launch a nuclear war.     

On the campaign trail Trump has been the consummate showman and entertainer.  He makes outrageous comments to fire up his supporters.  He has dubbed his opponent "crooked" Hillary Clinton, yet he has lied hundreds of times according to every fact-checker.   This man actually had the chutzpah to announce in a debate he would launch an investigation into Clinton if he were elected president, and even said she should be in jail.  

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a serious trust issue with the American electorate dating back to he time as Arkansas First Lady.  There have been many investigations into both Hillary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.   She has never been charged on convicted with a crime.  Yet her use of a private Email server while U.S. Secretary of State has been the scandal that simply won't go away.  While she apologized, the fact that she had thousands of personal Emails destroyed that may have been relevant to an investigation into her handling of classified material has further undermined her credibility.  

Clinton has enemies within the FBI.  Last July, FBI chief James Comey cleared her of wrong doing but declared her handling of Emails as reckless.  Republican members of Congress were sharply critical of Comey's decision.  Ten days ago former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is also a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, appeared on Fox News and predicted something big was about to come out that would hurt Clinton.  Two days later Comey sent a letter to members of Congress informing them that the FBI would expand its investigation into Emails found on the laptop of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton's right-hand aide, Huma Abedin.  Did disgruntled FBI agents tip off Giuliani?  He says no.  Even worse, Fox News anchor Brett Baier, quoting FBI sources, reported that an indictment was likely against the Clinton Foundation.  Later he had to retract his story and apologize, but the damage was done.  

The Comey letter roiled the presidential race, and now Trump is within striking distance of being elected.   The stock market suffered losses Friday, and many world leaders are on edge.  Despite her problems, Clinton is considered one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and hard working candidates to ever run for president.   Her time as First Lady of the United States, as a U.S. Senator from New York, and as U.S. Secretary of State, have given her a deep background and extensive connections to draw upon if she is elected president.

On late Sunday,  James Comey sent a new letter to members of Congress saying, "based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton," apparently ruling out a renewed investigation for now, according to The New York Times.  His latest letter comes at a time when Clinton appears to be holding on to a slim lead over Trump in the final hours before Election Day.  Not surprisingly, Clinton has the support of most women, as well as Latinos, African Americans, Asians and younger Americans.   If they turnout in big numbers she make history and become the first woman to serve as president.    

No matter the final outcome, most Americans will be glad the presidential election is finally over.  However, the country will remain deeply divided, and political parties, the presidential campaigns, the FBI, and the media, have all played a role the current state of politics.   

America deserves far better.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Comey Again?

James Comey's decision to inform Congress that the FBI had discovered emails on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner that may be relevant to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server has roiled the presidential campaign with days to go before the election.   His letter provided little details about the emails, leaving the ambiguous discloser subject to interpretation and wild speculation by Trump supporters.  

At a Friday rally, Donald Trump hailed the news as "bigger than Watergate," even though all of the emails may be just copies of those released earlier to the FBI.  Trump has fallen behind Clinton in the polls but now he has an issue to exploit to take attention away from charges of sexual assault that have hurt his campaign in recent weeks.

The Clinton campaign has criticized Comey for breaking with Justice Department protocol by commenting on an ongoing investigation, and doing anything that could be viewed as influencing the election.  A Justice Department official confirmed to the Washington Post that they advised Comey.   "It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill," the official said, "He is operating independently of the Justice Department.  And he knows it."  Comey had received sharp criticism last July from Republicans when he announced last July that he recommended that criminal charges not be made against Clinton for her use of a private email server.   Comey is a Republican.  In his letter to Congress, Comey said he feared that word of the newly found emails would leak and suggest a cover-up.

Clinton spoke of the revelations at a Saturday appearance in Daytona, Florida.  "Of course Donald Trump is already making up lies about this," she said.  "He is doing his best to confuse, mislead and discourage the American people."   Clinton campaign manager Robby Mock called on the FBI to release the emails.  "Just get it all out there and the voters can judge for themselves," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Before the disclosers, polls showed the race between Clinton and Trump had been tightening.  Trump has enjoyed the ardent support of his loyalists despite his many gaffes and recent charges of sexual abuse from 12 women.  He was recorded on an NBC's Access Hollywood video talking about sexual abuse.  He later described it as "locker room" talk, and has threatened to sue the women and NBC.  During his campaign, Trump has humiliated his opponents, he has disparaged war heroes, and he has consistently insulted women, Mexicans and Muslims.  Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which is standard practice for recent presidential candidates, and many of his business dealings have faced serious scrutiny.   Trump has fought back by blaming the "dishonest media" for his transgressions.  

Trump has consistently display a lack of understanding of foreign policy.  He has advocated the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the possible dissolution of NATO.  He has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, he has invited Russian hackers to go after Clinton's emails, and he has claimed he has a secret plan to eliminate ISIS.  He has also attacked fellow Republicans, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, and he has caused a huge rift within the Republican Party.  Recently, he has supported efforts to suppress votes, especially in urban areas that are heavily populated by traditional Democratic voters, like African Americans and Hispanics.  

Both Clinton and Trump have low favorability ratings among a majority of likely American voters.  But, despite her trust issues, and the fact that she should not have used a private email server, Clinton is one of the most experienced candidates to seek the presidency.  Yet the winds of change are blowing heavily in favor of Trump, as they often do after one party holds the White House for two terms.  So even the hint of an additional problem with Clinton's emails can drive independents voters, as well has some soft Clinton supporters, away from the voting booth, while firming up Trump's support with doubtful Republicans.  As Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta observed, "There's no evidence of wrongdoing, no charge of wrongdoing, no indication that this is even about Hillary."  But there may be enough misinterpretation to confuse voters on Election Day.  

As a result, America may elect the least qualified and most unpredictable presidential candidate ever in its history to the White House.   

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Trump's Collapse

"I alone can fix it," Donald Trump bragged at the Republican National Convention last July with swagger, confidence and certitude.   But Trump has since shown no sign he can even run an effective campaign, and he is now on the verge of an historic defeat.  

Many Americans were ready for a change this election, and all of the polls revealed a nation filled with concern that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, a flawed candidate dogged by an email controversy and a foreign policy record that has come under continuous scrutiny.  Yet Republicans selected as their nominee a brash man who had no political experience, little knowledge of the key issues, an impulsive nature, and a man who bullies those who stand in his way.   They thought they could control him, shape his campaign, and get him "on message."  They failed.  As a result, Republicans are fighting to retain control of the Senate.

Trump did not properly prepare for any of the three debates he had with Clinton.  Consequently, he could not speak articulately about any of the issues that were discussed.  Clinton won all three debates, and her third debate performance was her best.  She set traps for the thin-skinned Trump, and he took the bait.  At the end of the first debate she mentioned how Trump had mocked a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, because she had gained weight.  The result was an overnight Twitter storm from Trump that raised serious questions about his temperament.  

In the second debate, Trump was on the defensive from the very beginning because a videotape had been released of him talking in an inappropriate way about women.  Moderator Anderson Cooper, of CNN, asked Trump, "You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals.  That is sexual assault.  You bragged that you sexually assaulted women.  Do you understand that?"  Trump responded that he was embarrassed by his comments, and scrambled to answer the question.  "No, I didn't say that at all.  I don't think you understood what was--this was locker room talk.  I am not proud of it.  I apologize to my family.  I apologize to the American people."  This incident and the exchange raised serious questions about Trump's character.  

For weeks Trump has been saying that the election will be rigged, and asked that his supporters monitor polling places.  In their final debate, moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, asked Trump that, if he loses, would he accept the outcome as is the tradition in presidential elections.  Trump responded, "I will look at it at the time.  I'm not looking at anything now.  I'll look at it at the time."  He then added, "If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote...millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote."   Wallace followed up, "Are you saying you will not commit to that principle?"  Trump replied, "What I am saying is that I will tell you at the time.  I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"   This exchange dominated the news cycle and received criticism from his fellow Republicans.

On Saturday, Trump appeared at a rally in Gettysburg, the site of an historic Civil War battle, and the place President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address.  Trump gave his closing argument and outlined what he would do during his first 100 days in office if elected.   But he began by attacking the "dishonest mainstream media" and a rigged election.  He then spoke of the 10 women (now 11) who had come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances.  "Every women lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign -- total fabrication," he said as he gestured from the podium for emphasis.  "The events never happened.  Never.  All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."  Of course, if he actually sues, and if he is elected, a President Trump, will spend an enormous amount of time in depositions, and so will members of his family.  This is another empty threat, but it overshadowed his closing argument.   

No one believes more in Donald Trump than Trump himself.  But his candidacy has roiled and divided the Republican Party, and it has repulsed millions of women, Hispanics, Muslims, and independent voters.  Trump has said he read the bible.  Perhaps he should have carefully considered these words from Luke, "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."   

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pepublican Party Chaos

The Republican Party is reeling and stunned as a result of the release of 2005 audio recordings of Donald Trump talking about women using vulgar language.  Many leading Republicans have denounced Trump and withdrawn their endorsements.   Some are calling for Trump to be removed from the ticket.   With a month to go before the presidential election, the GOP is in chaos.  

Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence and his team are described as "absolutely apoplectic" and "inconsolable" because of Trump's obscene language.  In his appearance at the Vice Presidential Debate, Pence said, "If Donald Trump has said all of the things that you've said he said, in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn't have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said half our supporters were a basket of deplorables."   Pence may have won that battle, but he is about to lose the war because of his deplorable running mate.  Pence should immediately quit the race in order to save his dignity and reputation.  

Unless Trump withdraws it will be difficult and complicated for the Republican Party to remove him from the ticket and replace him on the ballot.  Some Republicans are holding out until they see how he performs in Sunday’s second Presidential Debate.  But even if Trump has a strong performance, how can any Republican member of Congress stand behind him?  There are reports that more tapes of Trump using offensive language will be released soon.  There already have been plenty of anecdotal reports of Trump's bad behavior towards women.  

Loyal Trump supporters are standing by their candidate.  Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told reporters he wasn't surprised that some Republicans no longer support Trump.   "You look at it, they were all Republicans who all opposed him and didn't support him in the past and this is basically the insiders against the outsiders anyway," he said outside Trump Tower Saturday night.  But the thrice-married Giuliani may not be the best person to make Trump's case.

There are reports that Trump will bring up former President Bill Clinton’s affairs in the debate, and he will again attack Hillary Clinton as an enabler.  But the same could be said for any Republican who supports Trump. 

Trump's crude language towards women is just the latest offense in a long list of embarrassing comments by the New York billionaire.  He has called Mexicans rapists, he called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., he forced a sitting president to produce a birth certificate, he mocked a reporter with a disability, he said Senator John McCain was not a hero, he viciously insulted his primary opponents, and he has harshly attacked a many journalists.   Yet, despite all of that he secured his party's nomination and most leading Republicans endorsed him.   Now they are in a panic.

Trump is now toxic, and he made be headed for an historic landslide defeat November 8.  His actions have put many down ballot races in jeopardy for Republicans, and they may lose control of the U.S. Senate.   Simply denouncing Trump and redirecting campaign funds to House and Senate races may not be enough for Republicans to stop the tidal wave.  

Late Saturday, Donald Trump, living in his alternate reality, arrogantly tweeted, “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!’’

Many Republicans are already looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, when a large number of Democratic Senate seats will be in play, and the 2020 presidential contest.  But humiliated Republicans will first have to rebuild their party and unite their members.  That will be no easy task.  

On Election Day 2016 the Republican Party will reap what it has sown. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump Reality Show

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a disgrace to his party and an embarrassment to the nation.  He has consistently demonstrated that he does not have the temperament, judgment, background or humility to lead our country.  

For more that a year, the Trump campaign has been run like a reality show.  It has been filled with drama, controversy and interesting characters that often mask over the weaknesses of its golden-haired impresario.   Despite his many apparent flaws, Trump was able to defeat all of his GOP opponents, every one of whom is more qualified than he to be president.

Trump's campaign road show travels from town to town playing before large crowds that enthusiastically cheer his boisterous rhetoric and divisive bombast. He plays on the fears and concerns of his supporters like Keith Richards plays his Telecaster.  "You can't always get what you want," can be heard over speaker systems at the end of his rallies. And Trump has many believing he may be what they need.

Trump needs this adulation and praise to feed his huge ego.  He is narcissistic and self-centered.   In his mind the world revolves around him.  He also thinks he is smarter than anyone else, so he believes he is never wrong.  Trump reminds everyone that he studied business at the Wharton School.  He prides himself on being the best negotiator, and the outcome of every transaction must result in a big win for Trump.  He lives in a cocoon, in a bubble, surrounded by loyal and obedient staff members who tell him what he wants to hear, and who carry out his orders.

His attacks on his opposition are often personal and childish.  "Lying" Ted Cruz, "Little" Marco Rubio and "Crooked" Hillary Clinton are names he proudly spends time thinking up.  He mocks and derisively brands his opponents much the same as a schoolyard bully.  You are either all in with Trump, or you are the enemy and subject to his ridicule.  As a result, Trump lives in an alternate reality.

Trump performed poorly at the first presidential debate, held at Hofstra University last Monday.  He was unprepared, often uncomfortable, and he seemed to lose his stamina toward the end of his encounter with Hillary Clinton.   But he believes he won the confrontation.  He cites unscientific internet polls, done immediately following the debate, as proof that he won, and ignores scientific polls by reputable organizations that show Clinton clobbered him.   

Then there is the matter of 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado.   Clinton referred to her during the debate, saying of Trump, "He called this woman Miss Piggy.  Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina."  Clinton got under Trump's thin skin, and he has since been obsessed with Machado.  On Friday, in a flurry of posts on Twitter that began at 3:30am, Trump attacked Machado and Clinton.  One read, "Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?"  This may have been the first time a presidential candidate referred to a sex tape, in fact, one that may not exist.  

A former Miss Universe has shaken Trump's alternate reality.  His campaign, its staff, the media, and the world have been consumed by Trump's Twitter tirades.  Now BuzzFeed News has uncovered a soft-core documentary, entitled "Playboy Video Centerfold 2000," in which Trump has a brief cameo appearance.  Meanwhile, Trump has started talking about President Bill Clinton's affairs, and has labeled Hillary Clinton an enabler.  Of course, Trump has been married three times.  

During his campaign the all-knowing Donald has insulted women, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, and African Americans.   He refuses to properly apologize because he believes he is right.  And he claims he did a service for the nation by forcing President Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate.  He refuses to release his tax returns to be fully transparent with Americans, and he uses his charities as an ATM machine.  Trump is unprepared and unfit to be president, and unworthy of the office.  

Yet most leading members of the Republican Party stand by and defend Trump, even his lies, his distortions, his insults and his bullying.  They think that if Trump is elected president they can control him, that he will do what they say, that he will play by their rules.  But this is the man who announced to the world, "I alone can fix it."

This past week may have been an important turning point in the national election.  It may be the beginning of the end of the Donald Trump Reality Show.   

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Hofstra Debate

History is about to be made at Hofstra University, and excitement is building to a crescendo among the school's nearly 11,000 students.  On Monday evening, Democrat Hillary Clinton will face Republican Donald Trump in a presidential debate that will likely be the most watched television program in U.S. history.   It will also be the first time in American history a woman presidential candidate from a major party will debate during a general election.   

Hofstra University 
The Hofstra debate will be a major turning point in the election.  While Clinton is ahead in the polls, her lead is fragile.  Meanwhile, Trump has shown some momentum recently, and he has even pulled ahead in polls from key battleground states, like Ohio and North Carolina.  Political advisors for both candidates are vigorously playing the expectations game so as to favorably position their candidate in advance with the press.   If expectations are low for Trump, a good debate performance by him may win him more supporters.

Each candidate has major hurdles to overcome in how they are perceived by Americans.  Trump is viewed as more trustworthy than Clinton by likely voters in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, but she outperforms him overwhelmingly in temperament, being a good commander-in-chief, and experience.  Trump holds an edge over Clinton in who would be best to handle the economy.   Clinton enjoys a strong lead among minorities, women and young voters.  Trump does well with men, white voters and those without a college degree.  Interestingly, half of Trump's likely voters say they will vote for him because they are against Clinton.   

A majority of Americans polled want a change in Washington, and that frustration with government gridlock and political bickering fueled the rise of Trump.  Trump has campaigned as the change agent while Clinton has had difficulty clearly articulating how she would change Washington.   Trump's loyal supporters don't care what he says and how he says it.  But temperament will be a big factor in winning over independent and uncommitted voters.  So Trump is likely to be on his best behavior Monday night in hopes of securing undecided voters.  Conversely, Clinton will not be able in a single debate to get more voters to think she is more trustworthy.  But she may be able to use her enormous experience to overshadow Trump on key issues.

This will be the third presidential debate held at Hofstra University, which is more than any other university.  During the 2012 Hofstra debate Governor Mitt Romney spoke of "binders full of women," and in the 2008 Hofstra debate Senator John McCain repeatedly brought up "Joe the Plumber."  This year's debate will be moderated by NBC News' Lester Holt.  There will be six 15-segments, for a total of 90-minutes.  The topics, chosen by Holt, will be "America's direction," "achieving prosperity" and "securing America."   The candidates will have an opportunity to respond directly to each other.  

To be sure, Trump and Clinton will try hard to avoid making gaffs that may change the course of the election.   But will Clinton look healthy?  How will she handle questions about her emails?  Will Trump be able to endure 90-minutes of tough questions?  Will he explain his positions on issues in-depth, like his "secret plan" to eliminate ISIS?  And how will the recent police shootings factor into the debate?

Hofstra took over the debate on short notice when Wright State University in Ohio pulled out in July for financial reasons.  Hofstra's president, Stuart Rabinowitz, said at the time, "We greatly appreciate the faith shown in us by the Commission on Presidential Debates."  Now, six weeks later, security around this 250 acre campus in Hempstead, NY, will be unprecedented. Monday's classes have been cancelled, many parking lots and some nearby major routes will be shut all day.  Meanwhile, hundreds of media outlets will take up positions on campus as Hofstra becomes the political epicenter of the universe for one day.  

As one student wrote in her blog, "I firmly believe that this debate is an incredible opportunity not only for the university, but for the students who dream of building and shaping these events in the future."   

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tsar Trump

Donald Trump's interview with host Larry King Thursday on RT, the English language Russian television news network, was embarrassing.  Trump's campaign was caught off guard by his comments and struggled for an explanation.  "A former CNN superstar, Larry King, has a podcast, and Mr. Trump went on his podcast," explained campaign manager Kellyanne Conway Friday on CNN. "Nobody said it would be on Russian TV." 

Trump has been under attack for his repeated praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.   During a presidential forum on NBC Wednesday, Trump said that Putin has been a better leader that President Barack Obama.  "Certainly, in that system, he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."  

Trump has repeatedly made in clear throughout his campaign that he admires Putin.  This has been especially true since Putin heaped praise on Trump at his annual press conference last December.  "He is a bright and talented person without doubt," Putin said, "an outstanding and talented personality."   Putin, a former KGB officer, knows how to manipulate egos, and no one has a bigger ego than Trump.  Trump's response, in the form of a statement, was, "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond."

Respected?  Putin's annexation of Crimea and military intervention of Ukraine led to international condemnation and the imposition of sanctions.  Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war on behalf of its tyrannical leader, Bashar al-Assad, has also drawn condemnation and prolonged the conflict. Russia is also looking to play a bigger role in Iran's nuclear program.

Putin rules Russia with an iron fist.  Human Rights Watch, a non-government organization advocating human rights, harshly criticizes Russia.  "The Kremlin's crackdown on civil society, media, and the Internet took a more sinister turn in 2015 as the government further intensified harassment and persecution of independent critics," the organization says on its website.  Putin has turned the country against the West, especially the United States, in an effort to keep tight control.  He has successfully shifted blame for Russia's struggling economy from government policies to Western sanctions.  Putin has rigorously maintained a corrupt system of government where he and his loyal supporters reap great personal reward.

Punditfact reported earlier this year that 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 2000.  The international watchdog Freedom House ranks Russia 180 out of 199 countries when it comes to press freedom.   Perhaps Trump, who regularly denounces the American media, admires how Putin handles the press.  Trump told King, "there's tremendous dishonesty with the media.  Not all of it, obviously, but tremendous dishonesty."   

Larry King has a regular program on RT, and RT billed the interview as an "exclusive."  RT, a Kremlin sponsored network, describes itself as, "an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints international audience with a Russian viewpoint."   General Michael Flynn, the former director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and now a national security advisor to Trump, attended an RT gala in Moscow last year, and has appeared on the network several times.   

In his RT interview, Trump told King that he doesn't think Russia is trying to meddle in the American election.  "I think it's probably unlikely.  Maybe the Democrats are putting that out -- who knows," he said.  "If they are doing something, I hope somebody's going to be able to find out so they can end it.  Because that would not be appropriate at all."  (However, last July Trump called on the Russians to hack Clinton's e-mails.) Nonetheless, Trump's views on the media and President Obama pretty much align with the Russian viewpoint.  

The website Talking Points Memo reported in July, "Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin."  Trump's tax returns might shed light on the extent of the investment, but he says he won't release them.  Both Trump and Putin have spoken out against NATO, although for different reasons.  TPM also reported that Putin has sought to prop up nationalist movements in Europe in part to sow discord in those countries.  

Trump is running a nationalist campaign positioning himself as a strong leader, and he is certainly sowing discord.  "I alone can fix it," he said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July.  He has campaigned using bombast and bluster, while seldom offering specific answers to policy questions, like details of his "secret plan to eliminate ISIS."  In his Wednesday appearance on NBC, he said, "Under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I think the generals have been reduced to rubble."  He continued, "They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing to our country."  Of course, he would fire them.

On Wednesday, Trump praised Putin for "having great control over his country."   If elected in November, perhaps Tsar Trump will try to assert his control over this country.